The Rickety Old Shack

Cattle Decapitation - The Anthropocene Extinction

Cattle Decapitation - The Anthropocene Extinction, cover

I would be lying if I said that Cattle Decapitation were a band I followed particularly closely. I still have fond memories of the first time I heard To Serve Man, and have tried to keep up to speed on their releases even if I haven't been prompt about it. This time, however, the opening spate of reviews piqued my curiosity such that I went out of my way to find The Anthropocene Extinction and see what the big deal was.

Deathgrind is not a genre that occupies a lot of my time, but every now and then a release comes along that commands my attention. I would put The Anthropocene Extinction squarely in that category. While it is important to heavily qualify statements like "diversity of styles" when it comes to fusing them with death metal and grindcore, that's what elevates a record like this above so many others on the fringes of extreme metal. As but one example, the way "Mammals in Babylon" transitions between a thick, dirty groove into a tornado of blast beats makes the heavier passages that much more powerful. Conversely, the grindier passages allow for chilling endings like the final minute-plus of "Not Suitable for Life" to really settle in and unnerve the listener.

The meat and potatoes of the band's songs are still thunderously heavy, abrasive metal but it's not simply 100mph riffing with non-stop kick drums for 46 minutes. Each song moves through slower, sludgier passages, syncopated grooves, and transitions between all-out fury and more reserved, brooding evil. Travis Ryan's 'clean' vocals are really impressive and used with superb discretion; I wouldn't dare call this album's feel "soft" at any point, but the variance and contrast in vocals really helps maintain interest over the course listening to it in its entirety.

Simply put: the songwriting is excellent, with each track feeling fully fleshed-out and developed. The band continues to progress their signature anti-humanity narrative, culminating in this album's closing track, "Pacific Grim," an ode to the enormous floating garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean. Earlier albums focused on the concept of humans being subjugated in the same manner animals are farmed in factories, while The Anthropocene Extinction expands on the nihilistic vision of the future outlined on the band's prior album, Monolith of Inhumanity. Whether or not you even have an opinion on Environmentalism, the subject makes for a refreshing break from the genre clichés — songs about demons and ad hoc surgery — while still providing a dark, disturbing narative.

One minor nitpick would be the production, but only in that it's almost too good. It's very hard to articulate what I mean, but a few portions sound so inhumanly precise and perfect that it's difficult to imagine them being played by people. This isn't that big of a deal, more a lament born of personal preference. Taken as a whole, The Anthropocene Extinction is expertly crafted and is a really good sounding record, when I say 'nitpick' I mean it — I had to dig even for that.

Even if you're normally averse to anything pertaining to grindcore, if you're into death metal whatsoever then this album is absolutely worth giving a chance. The band shifts gears a lot on this record, but their foot is always heavy on the gas. There is no wasted time, and just enough respite to catch your breath between assaults. Sparse keyboard passages and a 1:24 interlude in "The Burden of Seven Billion" are the only real 'breaks,' otherwise this album remains consistently aggressive and menacing until "Pacific Grim" slowly fades out to the sound of ocean waves.

I may be speaking prematurely, as I need to go back to and listen to their older releases again, but this really feels like Cattle Decapitation has put out their best work to date. As shocking and extreme as the band's history and material is, they've matured over time and The Anthropocene Extinction is an incredible testament to that. This record is a great starting point for those who are new to the band, and long-time fans should be more than satisfied as well.

Summary

Easily one of the best extreme metal releases of the year, without question. I didn't approach the notion of a new Cattle Decapitation album with really high hopes, but they weren't low either; I was blown away by this record. I don't remember anything this firmly planted in the grindcore genre held my interest for a sustained period of time, which makes The Anthropocene Extinction even more remarkable. A career-defining release, I can't say enough good things about this album.

Album Information

Release date: August 7th, 2015
Record label: Metal Blade Records

Travis Ryan — vocals, keyboard and drums on "Ave Exitium"
Josh Elmore — guitar
Derek Engemann — bass, keyboard and drums on "The Burden of Seven Billion"
Dave McGraw — drums

Track Listing

  1. Manufactured Extinct
  2. The Prophets of Loss
  3. Plagueborn
  4. Clandestine Ways (Krokodil Rot)
  5. Circo Inhumanitas
  6. The Burden of Seven Billion
  7. Mammals in Babylon
  8. Mutual Assured Destruction
  9. Not Suitable for Life
  10. Apex Blasphemy
  11. Ave Exitium
  12. Pacific Grim

—by Derek

Published: September 23, 2015